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Make money as an artist

Artists and the M word (money)
Art Business / Thoughts

Make money as an artist

It can be difficult to think of an artist as a business person or marketing expert. But the truth is that if you are an artist and want to be profitable or even just not loose money, you need to be able to sell what you are offering. It is not necessarily an easy task to make money as an artist.

I used to think that is you make Art that is good enough, it would sell by itself and galleries would seek your representation. After a few years in this business I realized that this is very far from the truth. Many excellent artists are struggling to sell their Art.

Make money as an artist: Should Artists think like business people?

I personally don’t think that Artists should be ashamed of trying to make a bit of money or try to hide it. Being a self-employed artist is not the easiest way to wealth. Statistics are showing us that most Artists are poor and that a vast majority of Art school students end up doing something else after just a few years. So it is difficult to make money as an artist, even more difficult to make a living just by selling your Art.

Only a few percentage of artists at the top of the pyramid are making huge amounts of money and many artists at the base of the pyramid are struggling to monetize their art.


making money as an artist

It is not easy to make money as an Artist, but it is very easy to loose money actually. Art supplies are expensive, renting a studio can also be costly and anything you need to do to market your art business will probably cost you something: a website with online store, a mailing list, an accounting system, business cards, brochures, signs, etc…. Plus all the jury and exhibitions fees.

That is why, I think it is important to remind ourselves that even though we enjoy what we are doing and might be very lucky to be able to work in a field we are passionate about, these are not reasons to down sell what we do. It takes a lot of time and effort to become good at painting or drawing and this time investment should be considered.

Make money as an artist: What about discounts and donations?

For example selling a painting at a very discounted price is not always a good idea: You might not feel good about this sale and also it is not fair to your other collectors who paid the full price. If you make your art honestly at the best of your abilities, you should be able to ask for a fair price. Sometimes people look at the price of a painting and think this is a lot of money, they might ask you how long it took you to paint it, but in the end the painting is just the end result of a long process, the tip of the iceberg.

I am not saying either that you should never do anything for free, I think it is great to participate in community events, maybe volunteer some of your skills to help local initiatives or organizations. It is also great to give artworks for charity events and fundraising or to your local hospital. But when it comes to what you are selling: painting and classes, the discounts offered should stay reasonable. You can see on my website. I am offering a 10% discount to my mailing list subscribers and that is about the maximum discount I will offer.

Pricing of Art is a delicate subject that may have more to do with psychology and self esteem on the Artist’s part than any other rationale. If you want your customer to value what they buy, it might have to start with yourself valuing what you do. Giving it away for free or almost free sends the message that it is not something special.

do not undersell your art

Botanical Allegory, Original Painting

Make money as an artist: The Artist online

The way artists feel about money will translate about the way they present themselves online as well.

I am trying to fight stereotypes that makes us fit into one category or another as an artist. This stereotypes will often have something to do with money and the way you present yourself.

For example, should you have a very “classy” minimal website with no prices, or should you give potential customers all the information they need? Would that upset galleries? Are you being too commercial? Is it tasteless?

sell our art online
You can visit my art website here

I recently remodeled my website and decided to be clear about what my goals were for my website, and my goal is to pick the interest of potential customers. In consequence I thought the design and planned my website with that idea in mind. I tried to keep everything in good taste but I also did not try to hide that I am trying to sell my paintings. That is why all the information about the paintings, including prices is easily accessible.

What are your personal struggles with money as an Artist? Do you feel the pressure to under sell what you do? Did you get negative feedback for being too commercial? or doing too much self promotion?

I would love to read your thoughts in the comments

3.6/5 - (22 votes)

Comments (4)

  1. I’m assuming the”M” word is marketing? I could not find direct reference. 😉

    1. I was thinking Money , but Marketing would work too 🙂

  2. Donna

    When I exhibit in a show or gallery they take up to 40%. When I sell directly I give a 20% discount. I put a desired price on the back of the painting so I will be prepared if someone asks the price. These are my creations so I want enough to salve the separation anxiety and I want them to find a good home. Luckily, I don’t live off my earnings since I don’t sell much. In addition, I sometimes take my earnings and buy another artist’s work to give them the great feeling of selling a painting that someone else loves.

    1. Yes, that makes sense.
      I also started buying other’s artists works recently and love that feeling of buying something unique, that will stay in my home. I used to have only my paintings at home but now I like better having others people work and just a few of mine.

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